Serena Williams has reached the U.S. Open semifinals, continuing her remarkable return from maternity leave and post-natal complications with a 6-4, 6-3 quarterfinal victory over No. 7 seed Karolina Pliskova on Tuesday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Williams, a six-time winner here and 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, trailed early when Pliskova broke her serve and took a 2-1 lead in the first set. Williams had to fight off three break points against her in the fifth game and was unable to convert two break points on Pliskova’s serve in the sixth game. Williams then cashed in a break point to level the set at 4-4 when Pliskova hit a backhand into the net. Williams held service to take a 5-4 lead and close out the set on her second set point, when Pliskova sent a backhand into the net.
In the second set, Williams won four consecutive games and assembled a winning streak of eight points before Pliskova broke her serve and cut Williams’ lead to 4-1. After saving four break points in the seventh game Williams held for 5-2 and closed out the set on serve.
The inspiration for her turnaround came from the fans whose energy lifted her. “I felt so bad because everyone out here was cheering and I wasn’t winning,” she said, “so I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to try harder,’” she said during an on-court interview.
Her victory avenged the semifinal defeat she had absorbed at the hands of Pliskova at the U.S. Open in 2016. Pliskova was the last of the top 10 women’s seeds still playing.
“I was having a baby at this time last year,” Williams said of her daughter, Alexis Olympia, who turned a year old on Sept. 1. “I have nothing to prove.”
Williams’ semifinal opponent on Thursday will be Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, who ended the reign of 2017 U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens with a 6-2, 6-3 upset at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“This has been a great road and I’m really excited,” Williams said of her semifinal matchup.
Williams, who will be 37 on Sept. 26, and Madison Keys are the only American women who have reached the semifinals. Keys will play her semifinal match against Carla Suarez Navarro on Wednesday.